SEGMENT: Julie Mehretu in "Systems"

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“Trying to figure out who I am and my work is trying to understand systems,” says Julie Mehretu, shown working with her assistants in Berlin on seven large canvases for a show at Deutsche Guggenheim. “The thing that keeps me going is the painting,” she says, “and in getting lost in doing that a language is invented.” Mehretu’s abstract compositions reference modernist architecture, Google Maps, Coliseum-like buildings, and defaced structures. Mehretu is also shown working on the biggest project of her young career: a 21 by 85 foot long mural commissioned by a major financial institution in Lower Manhattan, to be completed during the most severe financial crisis since the Great Depression. Characterizing the task before her as “absurd,” she wonders “can you actually make a picture…of the history of capitalist development?”

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